The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) was the world's first women's soccer league in which all the players were paid professionals. Founded in February 2000, the league began its first season in April 2001 with eight teams in the United States. The league suspended operations on September 15, 2003, shortly after the end of its third season.
As a result of the US Women's National Team
's (US WNT) first-place showing in the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup
, a seemingly viable market for the sport germinated. Feeding on the momentum of their victory, the twenty US WNT players, in partnership with John Hendricks
of the Discovery Channel
, sought out the investors, markets, and players necessary to form the eight-team league. The twenty founding players were:
, Brandi Chastain
, Tracy Ducar
, Lorrie Fair
, Joy Fawcett
, Danielle Fotopoulos
, Julie Foudy
, Mia Hamm
, Kristine Lilly
, Shannon MacMillan
, Tiffeny Milbrett
, Carla Overbeck
, Cindy Parlow
, Christie Pearce
, Tiffany Roberts
, Briana Scurry
, Kate (Markgraf) Sobrero
, Tisha Venturini
, Saskia Webber
and Sara Whalen
Teams and championship
Each roster primarily consisted of players from the United States, although up to four international players were allowed on each team's roster. Among the international players were China
's Sun Wen
, Pu Wei, Fan Yunjie, Zhang Ouying, Gao Hong, Zhao Lihong, and Bai Jie
's Birgit Prinz
, Conny Pohlers
, Steffi Jones and Maren Meinert
's Hege Riise
, Unni Lehn, and Dagny Mellgren
; and Canada
's Charmaine Hooper
, Sharolta Nonen, and Christine Latham
. The league also hosted singular talents from nations which were not at the forefront of women's soccer, such as Maribel Dominguez
, Homare Sawa
, Julie Fleeting
, Cheryl Salisbury
, Marinette Pichon
of France, Kristin Bengtsson of Sweden, and Kelly Smith
The WUSA franchises were in Philadelphia
; New York City
; Washington, D.C.
; Cary, N.C.
; San Jose, Ca.
; and San Diego
Founders Cup champions
The Founders Cup
(named in honor of the 20 founding players) was awarded to the winner of a four-team, single-elimination postseason playoff.
At various times, games were televised on TNT
, PAX TV
, and various local and regional sports channels.
WUSA suspends operations
The WUSA played for three full seasons, suspending operations on September 15
, shortly after the conclusion of the third season. Neither television ratings nor attendance met forecasts, while the league spent its initial $40 million budget, planned to last five years, by the end of the first season. Even though the players took salary cuts of up to 30% for the final season, with the founding players (who also held an equity
stake in the league) taking the largest cuts, that was not enough to bring expenses under control.
In the hopes of an eventual relaunch of the league, all rights to team names, logos, and similar properties were preserved. Efforts to line up new sources of capital and operating funds continued.
In June 2004, the WUSA held two "WUSA Festivals," featuring matches between reconstituted WUSA teams (often with marquee players borrowed from other teams), in order to maintain the league in the public eye and sustain interest in women's professional soccer.
With the WUSA on hiatus, the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and the W-League regained their status as the premier women's soccer leagues in the United States, and many former WUSA players joined those teams.
Women's professional soccer is scheduled to return in 2009; however, the new league will be named Women's Professional Soccer.
External news links